Khashoggi honored 100 days after his brutal murder, body still missing

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ANKARA
Published 12.01.2019 00:16
Updated 12.01.2019 00:32

Members of U.S. Congress honored Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by holding an event on Thursday to mark the 100th day of his assassination; his body has yet to be found.

Sharing stories and memories about Khashoggi, the U.S. lawmakers called for accountability and justice for his murder and advocated the need for a global fight for freedom of press in an event in Washington.

Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives shortly after he entered the country's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018.

The kingdom initially denied any role in Khashoggi's disappearance before acknowledging that he was murdered inside the consulate but passed the buck to rogue agents, while insisting that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) had no prior knowledge of the matter, an explanation which was far from convincing for many.

Commenting on the killing, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at the event that Congress is devoted to seeing that the people responsible for his death are held accountable.

"If we decide that commercial interests should override the statements that we make and the actions that we take, then we must admit that we have lost all moral authority," Pelosi added.

She also called on the U.S. to confront the threats against journalists everywhere and vowed that U.S. lawmakers would work until justice is found for Khashoggi.

Despite 100 days passing since his assassination, the whereabouts of his body remain unknown. In late October, Turkish police examined a well in the garden of the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul as part of the investigation into the murder. Turkish police also found security camera footage showing a car with a diplomatic license plate that belongs to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul making a "reconnaissance" visit to Belgrade Forest. The police suspect Khashoggi's body, or parts of it, could be hidden there. According to the footage, what looks like a black BMW entered the forest on Oct. 1 - one day before Khashoggi's killing.

Meanwhile, David Ignatius, a columnist for The Washington Post, alleged that MBS remains in regular contact with Royal Court Adviser Saud al-Qahtani, whom the CIA believes helped organize Khashoggi's killing, adding that he does not seem to have learned any lessons from Khashoggi's death.

A Saudi official, whose views are included in the article, said that Qahtani recently met with his former colleagues from the royal court's Center for Studies and Media Affairs and told his former aides that he is being blamed and used as a scapegoat.

"Senior Saudi officials who have discussed MBS's continued contact with Qahtani have urged U.S. patience. ‘If I try to ban him, [Qahtani] will find another channel,' a senior prince is said to have advised the administration. Meanwhile, the Saudi engine of repression continues to run at full speed," Ignatius added.

The Washington Post writer also noted that one American who met recently with MBS told Ignatius that the crown prince feels very confident and in control and "as long as his base is secure, he feels that nothing can harm him."

Riyadh remains apprehensive about revealing new information regarding the murder.

Previously, the kingdom's attorney general sought the death penalty for five of the 11 defendants charged with the murder of Khashoggi as their high-profile trial opened in Riyadh.

All 11 accused were present with their lawyers at the opening hearing in the capital, according to a statement by Attorney General Saud al-Mujeb carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. The statement added that the prosecution demanded death sentences for five suspects, adding that the interrogation of the suspects continues.

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